the first casualty…

I’m always amazed how things travel in packs. Maybe it’s synchronicity.

In war, truth is the first casualty.
Aeschylus Greek tragic dramatist
(525 BC – 456 BC)

All warfare is based on deception.
General Sun Tzu – Chinese soldier
5th century
(Sun Tzu’s most fundamental of the principles for the conduct of war.)

How’s that for yin and yang?

We’ve had some tragedy in the extended family recently. I’m impressed at the factually correct, ethically borderline, and sensitivity inept the newspaper reporting has been. Utterly rude. Of course we could complain, but the web pages will have been archived, and when has any newspaper ever taken the same space as they took for the original story to print the retraction? You’ll find them on page 93, in the gutter, set body copy or less, single spaced, unleaded. I think if the complaint was upheld the media concerned should be forced to invest the same space in the retraction as they did on the presentation. I’d love to see a 30 minute tv programme apologising for how wrong they were, without ad breaks, for example. Or, a quarter page in the Press, Herald or Dominion. Or best of all, a full web page with links to the archive (both ways) describing how they got it so wrong. And any advertising revenues on those pages, or during the tv time, paid to the victims, by way of compensation…

Strangely, in the last couple of days, there’s been a couple of other stories (unrelated) I’ve been close enough to be able to know more of the full story. I know that what is faithfully reported on paper and on the net is a fraction of the reality. That once it’s published it’s out there, and it’s true. That’d be TRUE. Forever.

I’m rewriting our web site including preparing Marica’s research on Memory and the Misinformation Effect – this link should go live over the weekend – if I can stop blogging long enough to finish the code. The summary of the research states that memory is malleable and if you get told something – and yes, that’s YOU – and anyone else, in the right way, there’s a good chance you’ll reconstruct the memory to suit. You and your damn alien abductions.

It’s all about the words. Degrees of distorted reporting has been found in scores of studies, involving a wide variety of materials. People have recalled nonexistent broken glass and tape recorders, a clean-shaven man as having a mustache, straight hair as curly, stop signs as yield signs, hammers as screwdrivers, and even something as large and conspicuous as a barn in a bucolic scene that contained no buildings at all. In short, misleading post-event information can alter a person’s recollection in a powerful ways, even leading to the creation of false memories of objects that never in fact existed.

Check out the research – I’ll put the links in here shortly. It’s very scary what can happen. Of course, it would never happen here. New Zealand has a flawless tradition of never trialling by media… yeah, right!

I’m inclined to wonder where New Zealand journalists get off from, and what their training is like. I have an opinion about that too, but that’s another story.


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